(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the US-ASEAN Business Council was pleased to host Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, H.E. Chan Chun Sing for a luncheon to discuss Singapore’s view on the future of trade in the world’s most dynamic economic region, ASEAN, and leadership on major trade agreements, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
“Minister Chan, during his introductory visit to the United States as Minister for Trade and as a member of Singapore’s Fourth Generation leadership, has left a strong impression on the U.S. business community that trade, contrary to some rumors, is still very much alive, attractive and profitable in Asia,” said Alexander Feldman, President and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council. “Trade is the life-blood of Singapore, and the city-state has led the charge for two of the most powerful trade agreements in Asia and the world in 2019: RCEP and CPTPP. The ASEAN-centric RCEP will cover over half people on Earth and US$25 trillion of the world’s GDP, complementing areas of overlap with CPTPP. And while the United States is a party to neither agreement, it is still possible for American companies with businesses in ASEAN to benefit from these important agreements.”
While speaking to the audience of U.S. business and U.S. government representatives, Minister Chan welcomed collaboration with American businesses and outlined the goals of his visit, which include discussing the role of U.S. business in the broader scheme of U.S. leadership.
“What makes America great is not just a set of trade numbers,” said Minister Chan. “What makes America great is the innovation that is present in this economy fueled by the free flow of talent and ideas, energy and spirit of American enterprise. And American leadership in the world is determined by the role played in the international institutions to create the rules for the international community to have a predictable, lawful environment to do business.”
Speaking on challenges of the future, Minister Chan talked about Singapore’s investment in preparing tomorrow’s workers for tomorrow’s jobs, and view of the digital economy.
“We see tremendous opportunities in the digitally enabled economy,” said Minister Chan. “Having said that, we need new rules in the global trading system and new mindsets to look at how we can all collectively seize opportunities in this new domain.”
Just prior to the luncheon, Mr. Luke Goh, Deputy Secretary of Trade in Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry and Mr. David Bohigian, Acting President and CEO of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to facilitate closer collaboration between OPIC and Infrastructure Asia. The MoU between the infrastructure agencies intends to better facilitate business investment toward developing Asian infrastructure.
“The US-ASEAN Business Council applauds the MOU signed by OPIC and Infrastructure Asia today”, said Feldman. “In fact, right now, the Council is leading a delegation of major U.S. companies to the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam to discuss infrastructure and transportation collaboration. Over the next decade, ASEAN nations will require approximately US$210 billion per year, or 5.7 percent of its combined GDP, to address the region’s infrastructure needs by 2030, and this agreement will help ensure American companies identify and contribute to the infrastructure to achieve an economically integrated ASEAN marketplace.”
On challenges in ASEAN, Minister Chan said strong regional and global cooperation and connectivity are needed.
“The kinds of challenges we see in ASEAN are a microcosm of challenges we see on the global trade front. Different countries have different stages of development, different aspirations and standards that they would like to see in any trade agreement. Also differences in abilities to enforce any trade agreements,” Minister Chan said. “What is important is to get everyone on the same sheet of music, to have the same framework to discuss rules and execution. This requires a bit of give and take.”
Minister Chan, addressing the audience, added that what Singapore can provide is superior connectivity for companies to regional markets.
“Most of you, if not all of you, have operations in Singapore because Singapore is a platform for you to reach out to the region and beyond," said Minister Chan. "And because you are not just looking at the Singapore nor even just the ASEAN market, our ability to connect with the rest of the world is so critical to your success, and our survival.”
U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Gil Kaplan, made introductory remarks for Minister Chan. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was also present to meet Minister Chan. H.E. Ashok Mirpuri, Ambassador of Singapore to the United States and other ASEAN Ambassadors and diplomatic officers attended the luncheon.
U.S. Businesses sponsoring the event were Johnson & Johnson, Motorola Solutions, AirBnB, Oracle, Chevron, AIG, Autodesk, Kimberly-Clark, Maximus, P&G and S&P Global.